Chadwick M. Layton, Esq.[i]
Harvey Waddell & Layton, P.A.
I am currently working with our local family law inn of court on a presentation that addresses the topic of do’s and don’ts for divorce attorneys that handle divorce consultations.
The initial consultation is very often the most important meeting that a client will have with a lawyer. This is the first time that the potential client has the opportunity to sit down with an attorney face to face for approximately 60 minutes to ask all of the questions that have been keeping them up at night.
The potential client is laying all of their cards on the table and asking for help. They do not know how divorce works, what it costs or what results may be expected.
The potential client is relying on the attorney to give them legally sound advice. They don’t want to be told what they want to hear.
The client wants and needs a legal opinion that is based upon the law and the specific facts of their marriage. This requires that the attorney they are meeting with is experienced in divorce cases and ethical.
This is the point where the attorney faces a big decision – ethically provide the client with a range of potential solutions and outcomes based upon the law OR repeat back to the client all of their stated goals and affirm that these goals are the likely outcome of the case.
There is no decision to be made for the ethical and expereienced divorce attorney. This decision was made years ago - their reputation is not worth one case. Their ethics will not be compromised to obtain a new client. The attorneys that practice are unwilling to bend their ethics under pressure have a well deserved reputation in the community and a thriving divorce law practice to show for it.
The attorneys that compromise their ethics to obtain a new client are almost always exposed. Three months or so after the client hires them based upon improper legal advice, the attorney will then be faced with explaining to the client that there is no chance to obtain the results previosuly promised.
Bad news travels fast. Dissatisfied clients warn others off from trusting an unethical attorney.
The solution is simple, tell the truth to potential clients and be sure to set realistic goals and expectations during the intial consusltation. If the attorney does not have the experience necessary in divorce law to provide legal advice to the client immediately, disclose this to the client and offer to perform legal research before calling the client in 24 hours to give them better advice. The client will likely appreciate this honest statement and be happy to wait a day or two for good honest legal advice.
[i] Chadwick M. Layton is a partner and shareholder at Harvey Waddell & Layton, P.A., located in downtown Lake Worth.
Mr. Layton is also a member of the Florida Bar Family Law Section and the Susan Greenberg Family Law American Inn of Court of the Palm Beaches,
101 North J Street, Lake Worth
Phone (561) 585-4631